We went to some friends' house for a cookout yesterday and found ourselves in enemy territory. Now, when I say "enemy territory," I don't mean we didn't enjoy every moment with our hosts and friends that were there. I mean that we were on high-alert, child-injury watch the entire time. Booby traps. Land mines. Even weapons of mass destruction.
First there were the horse shoes. How was our host (by the way, no kids) to know that those metal stakes he stabbed into the ground were potential toddler impalers? Or, that the flying horse shoes were actually metal boomerangs of death? Our one-year-old, who has just started to walk, is a heat-seeking missile for injury and destruction. If he can find a way to hurt himself, preferably by hitting his head against something, he will.
I would let J run around the yard while the guys gathered the horse shoes. But, the minute I saw that they were getting ready to fling some Head Smashers across the lawn, all of the sudden I became John Q. Safety. I'd hitch up my high-water safety pants, push up my glasses held together with electrical tape, and bust out in my best mom-nerd voice: "Wait guys. Just wait a gosh-darned second here." I'd then corral J away from any potential metal-meet-head, head-meet-metal introduction and yell, "Safety first, guys! Safety first!"
The single, childless guys thought that was WAY cool.
After about an hour, I was exhausted from physically restraining Jack from the horse shoes, running to protect him from tripping and smashing into the concrete rivets coming out the ground around the perimeter of the yard, and keeping him from falling into the Pit of Death concrete stairs leading to the basement entry.
And, then it hit me. What once would have been a relaxing evening outside with friends is no more. Your perspective changes when you have small children, particularly ones that walk around like they've just had one too many. The world suddenly does seem more dangerous, filled with a myriad of potential injuries. Some parents let their kids fall and get back up. Some parents shield them from any and all injury. I'd like to say I fall in the former category, but I don't. It's a battle I wage with myself on a daily basis while chanting the mantra, "They're fine. They're fine. They're fine."
I'll believe that one day.
Although I am a product of a society of scaredy cats, I will say, in my defense, I'm not as bad as SOME parents. A friend of mine won't even let her 3-year-old ride a see-saw for fear that falling one whole foot to the ground will cause...gasp...a scrape! (By the way, critiquing others is what I do to make myself feel better about my own neuroses...Not nice, but strangely effective.)
I do let my kids fall, but it sends shock waves through my body, which I try not to show on my face as I tell them (probably a little too enthusiastically), "You're ok. You're fine. LET'S KEEP PLAYING!"
I don't want my fears to become my kids' fears. I do have to eventually allow my children to fall, make mistakes, and find their way. I will still try to protect them while they're little, but I recognize the need to ease up a bit. Because, in the end, I can't control everything. Man, that's a hard pill to swallow because I have always firmly believed, without any inkling of doubt, that I am Master of the Universe.
And, wouldn't you know it, at the end of our evening -- after hours of defending, blocking, tackling -- someone got hurt anyway. M opened the gate to the deck and her hand decided to get really friendly with a tiny piece of wood. We ended the night hustling away with our our belongings, a squirming over-tired toddler, and a screaming preschooler with a splinter in her palm.
So much for being Master of the Universe.